JAPAN

 
Published: Wednesday 31 January 1996

The whole nation is caught in a spider's web. Japan is leaving no stone unturned in its offensive against the poisonous redback spider. Armed with vacuums and fumigators, tweezers and chopsticks, nets and jars and pesticides, health officials have hunted the spider down wells and manholes, under gravestones and in schoolyards and parks since the first enemy was found near Osaka. They even flew in emergency shipments of antitoxin from Australia, the redback's original home. The redback spider is about two-inches long. A handful of deaths are reported around the world due to its bite each year.

In Australia, where the spider is passe, no such death has occured since the antitoxin was developed in 1956. Most people who are bitten recover after a few days of sickness. But the Japanese are leaving nothing to chance. The whole episode has fuelled a debate on Japanese quarantine laws.

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